There is simply no rational basis for believing that McCain’s latest hijinks are performed in good faith. McCain is trying to leverage his declining political position by grandstanding on the national economic crisis.
Yesterday Obama called McCain in the morning with a proposal to join together in a statement about the economy, a statement of unity in righting the course. Six hours later McCain called back to agree on the concept, then less than an hour after that McCain announces that the campaign is suspended so that he can attend to the national crisis. He says that he is telling the president to call a meeting.
Characteristically he did not check with anyone about this, at least apparently no one outside his campaign; he just made another snap decision. (After all the Sarah Pallin blind leap turned out favorably, that is until her first interview.) No one seemed to know what to make of McCain’s latest wild gamble and there was widespread fear that he would set negotiations back by dragging the campaign into the middle on-going negotiations.
It is hard to imagine how McCain’s presence — with him desperately needing to seem presidential — could have a favorable influence on the week-long negotiations over the economy, particularly when absolutely no one views him as having expertise in the area and he has no leadership role in this arena. How could it help but turn the discussion toward partisanship? Harry Reid upon hearing McCain’s announcement told him not to come.
Two huge questions emerge from this puzzling behavior. First, if McCain really believes in good faith that the presidential candidates ought to suspend their campaigns to devote attention to Washington D.C. business, why did he not mention this when he and Obama talked about Obama’s idea to issue a joint statement on the economy? After all he was going to call a press conference right after hanging up. The press conference was more like a slap in Obama’s face than an expression of willingness to work together toward a common goal.
Second, if the situation is one that cries for McCain’s presence in Washington, why had he not spoken to anyone in Washington about it? You would have expected a leader to have covered the groundwork and to have established how he could help and what he would do in advance of a declaration that the campaign for the presidency was being suspended. Instead everyone was caught by surprise and many urged him not to come to Washington. This is a very unusual brand of leadership.
In this instance McCain seems to be willing to risk progress in the resolution of a bailout for a chance at regaining a lead in the polls.